Friday, April 20, 2018

Cell biology of microtubules

Microtubules are also known as filamentous polymers. Microtubules play a role in the segregation of chromosomes and molecular transport. Research has been done to examine various lengths of microtubules in response to the changes of their proteins. Microtubules are outer cylinders that secure protofilaments consisting of tubulin proteins and serve as an intercellular transport network by providing mechanical stability.

Scientist, Erwin Frey, stated that as microtubules elongate, the greater the number of motor proteins will accommodate. These motor molecules are called kinesins, which proceed along the protofilament. Kinesin proteins move toward the positive end of the microtubule, while the motor protein moves toward the negative end. When the kinesin protein reaches the end, it detaches from the filament and takes the tubulin, thus allowing another tubulin to bind to the end. In certain ranges, the growth and shrinkage of the microtubules operates as it would if resources were not limiting. However, components and resources within a cell are unlikely to be available in unlimited amounts. Therefore, there is a certain length at which the rates of growth and shrinkage balance out.

Microtubules play an essential role in the cell, for they allow for the segregation of chromosomes. Having kinesin proteins allow for the microtubule to elongate and perform its function to the cell.

For additional information, refer to the original article.

For information on microtubules and protein functions, refer to link1 and article1.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What Makes a Queen Bee, Queen?

What Makes a Queen Bee, Queen? 

Unlike the English monarchy, queen bees are not born females. Their development into queens stems from their diet of “royal jelly” which is secreted from the glands of the nurse bees. The larvae that feed on a mixture of pollen and honey develop into worker bees. However, researchers have found that diet alone does not solely determine the caste of the larvae. MicroRNA is the second factor in determining bee caste. The effects of microRNA include stunted body and ovarian grown in bees. This could potentially help solve the crisis of our declining rate of honey bees. Since there has been a significant decrease in honeybees over the decade, it could be possible to use this information to selectively breed more worker honey bees. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Inuit Genetic Advantage From Ancestors

Inuit Genetic Advantage From Ancestors 

The Denisovans are a group of archaic humans that survived in harsh climates for thousands of years. Around 50,000 years ago they bred with modern humans and subsequently passed along some of their genetic code. There are still some descendants from this mix today and can be found in Greenland, South America, and East Asia. While prevalent in other places, 100% of the Inuit population of Greenland have Denisovans as common ancestors. This suggests that a certain gene passed from the Denisovans was naturally selected and ended up being the most beneficial for the environment.

The Inuit people live in a climate where the average temperature is below freezing for half the year. They survive off of a diet high in whales, seals, fish which are all very high in unsaturated fatty acids. In order to be able to live in these conditions, they have developed heat-generating body fat or brown fat that produces heat by burning calories. This not only helps them keep warm in subzero temperatures, it also helps them metabolize their high fatty diet.These traits would easily put the Inuit people at an advantage if there were to ever be another Ice Age.

Sweet Tooth Gene Connected With Less Body Fat

In a recent study conducted by the University of Copenhagen, individuals with the gene variation of FGF21, commonly an allele for a sweet tooth, tend to have less body fat. The discovery defies our popular belief that those who eat more sugar tend to carry more fat. However, those individuals who do carry this allele, tend to have higher blood pressure and carry more fat around the waist commonly described as a more 'apple shape'. The study included data from 450,000 individuals collected by the UK Biobank which included blood samples and surveys on diet as well as family genetic history. By founding out more information about the FGF21 gene, scientists are hoping to develop a drug that could potentially treat those suffering from diabetes and obesity. FGF21 is commonly associated with sugar and by possibly replacing this gene drug companies and researchers will have a better understanding on how to predict potential side effects. This research could potentially change the way we associate those who consume large amounts of sugar and diseases like diabetes and obesity and could potential be the starting information needed into finding an efficient treatment.

Original Study

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

First Successful Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer Cloning of Primates

Earlier this year, at the Chinese Academy of Science, two macaque monkeys, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, became the first two primates to be successfully cloned using somatic cell nuclear transfer. Some might recall that this type of cloning gained its fame in the scientific community with its first successful subject, Dolly the Sheep. Somatic cell nuclear transfer, as its name infers, works by transferring the nucleus from a mature body cell into an egg cell that lacks a nucleus. Thus, the body cell DNA is rewritten by the egg cell, and therefore returns it to its embryonic state. This rewritten embryonic cell, basically becomes a blank slate, so to speak, that can then become any cell in the body.

genetically identical cloned monkeys

But why haven’t any organism so genetically close to humans, like the macaques, been successfully cloned like this before? Well according to the Mu-ming Poo, the director of the Institute of Neuroscience at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, the main reason primate cloning has been unsuccessful in the past, was due to a failure to reprogram the somatic DNA by the egg. This failure to reprogram the DNA is believed to be caused by an inability to unwind certain sections of the DNA that are very tightly wrapped around the somatic cells histones. To combat this and produce the successful clones found in this experiment, the researchers added specialized molecules designed to loosened these sections of DNA before its reprograming.  This breakthrough in cloning ability, will have significant implications on future disease and drug testing programs, as it could make the monkeys, which are already good genetic analogs to humans, even better test subjects, by removing any influence genetic variation between individuals might have on the trial results.

And for more information on somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning use this link

Is Genetic Testing Necessary?

Is Genetic Testing Necessary?

Over the past 5 years, there has been a surge in people wanting to get genetic testing. Some people do it to see exactly which countries they are from. Knowing and understanding your culture and heritage plays a vital role in how you view yourself. Others, primarily those with a familial history of disease and parents, do it for health and medical purposes.  

Those who have a prevalent history of diseases should definitely get genetic testing. Not only can it be vital to their health, it can also let parents trying to conceive know if their children will have any health risks. There was a case with a woman who struggled severely with her cholesterol even with proper dieting and prescribed medication. Through genetic testing, she realized she actually had hypercholesterolemia, a disease that produces mass amounts of cholesterol. This prompted doctors to do follow up testing leading to the discovery of life-threatening blockages in three of her coronary arteries. Had it not been for genetic testing, she would have most likely died. Couples who are trying to conceive also have reason to get genetic testing. For example, in the Jewish community, there is a 1 in 27 chance of an individual being a carrier of Tay-Sachs disease. There are many other genetic diseases with odds being the same and higher. The best thing for a Jewish couple to do is to get genetic testing to see the potential odds of their baby having a genetic disease.  

Genetic testing is easily accessible through sites like, 23andme, etc. The cost will depend on the type of testing you’re looking for, with prices ranging from $80-$250. More money get you more genetic disease results. Overall the necessity of genetic testing varies from case to case. People with a history of health issues and certain couples should seek genetic testing. People who are uncertain of their heritage should seek genetic testing as well, not only to better understand themselves but to also possibly uncover a genetic disease linked to their unknown ancestry.

How Life Generates New Forms

A new study has found which type of gene regulation is most likely to generate evolutionary change. A team in Switzerland demonstrated that gene regulation by transcription powers evolutionary change most effectively. This team's previous work also showed that robustness and evolvability, which are two traits that are key to evolution. Robustness refers to the ability to function relatively normally despite mutations, while evolvability relates to the ability to adapt to mutations. What this means is that transcriptional regulation plays a major role in evolution.

What I wonder is whether or not transcriptional regulation affects the time required for evolution, and whether or not this can be manipulated. I understand it would certainly be a hot topic if scientists found a way to speed up evolution and it is probably just my imagination thinking up interesting scenarios. However, when we consider how crazy people in the 1800s would go if they saw an Iphone we are reminded how far we have come technologically in such a short period of time. With that in mind is it really that crazy to think this breakthrough couldn't somehow lead to the control of evolution, especially when you consider what CRISPR allows us to do.


Second Link:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Viruses: Friend or Foe

         Viruses have a mostly negative connotation because they are often associated with diseases. Have you ever sat and wondered where exactly viruses come from? Turns out they literally drop from the sky from being swept up by sea spray, and not in small amounts either. It is an estimated 800 million viruses fall per square inch on the planet. They have a huge impact on our ecosystem. The ARC virus is known to be responsible for our evolution into what we are today. The virus gave us conscious, which influences our everyday life and decision making skills. They are also responsible for killing off most of the hooved-animal population in 1887 North Africa. Ironically, they can also be beneficial. There have been cases of invasive algae species being wiped out in a matter of days due to viruses. So it turns out that viruses not only make up the largest population on the planet, some of them are actually beneficial and keep our environment thriving.